THE appointment of Olsen Racela as new head coach of Petron drew a big, wide smile from 14-year veteran Danny Ildefonso.
“Ayos talaga yung pag-appoint kay Olsen na bagong coach namin,” Ildefonso said when chanced upon by Spin.ph. “Matalino siyang player, and naniniwala ako na kaya niyang dalhin yung ganung approach niya sa laro sa pagiging coach namin sa team.”
The coaching change seemed inevitable for the Boosters by the end of the 2011-2012 season after erstwhile head coach Ato Agustin failed to steer Petron’s star-studded lineup to the Finals in any of the three PBA conferences.
The Boosters even wasted a commanding 3-1 semifinal lead against bitter rival Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters during the Philippine Cup and lost in seven games. Talk ’N Text eventually won the championship.
Ildefonso, one of only three players to win the MVP trophy back-to-back, stressed Racela’s entry as head coach is just part of the championship puzzle Petron needs to figure out to keep its lofty status in the league.
“Kailangan kasi namin lahat mag-tulong-tulong. Di puwede i-asa lahat kay Olsen. Importanteng gampanan namin lahat ang roles namin sa team. Walang superstar, superstar,” added Ildefonso, who also won Rookie of the Year honors in 1998.
The Boosters’ star-studded cast include Arwind Santos, Jay Washington, playmaker Alex Cabagnot, and Fil-Ams Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter.
Ildefonso, once the team’s offensive centerpiece along with Danny Seigle (now with Barako Bull), is the remaining holdover of the team that won five championships in nine Finals appearances from 1998 to 2001.
Together with Racela at the point, Ildefonso helped the SMC franchise win eight championships in a 13-year span.